Happy Loki-versary!

This weekend marked Loki’s 9th year with us and roughly his 10th (maybe 11th) birthday. Time sure flies when you live with a cracker. He’s been our greatest teacher, our best friend, our most loyal companion.

This is the photo that melted my heart. When I called AHAN, the rescue, they literally said, “I’m not sure he’s suitable for a home because he’s a biter. He may have to go to dog sanctuary.” Thank goodness for his foster who worked with him on his less desirable behaviors. She sold with the words: “He really wants to do the right thing.” Those words were never truer.

The first two years with him felt like a constant struggle. A dog with a very high working drive and a high anxiety drive can be a challenge to someone who never worked with a high working drive dog let alone one with anxiety. I don’t know what changed between us, and how handling him became so much easier. Perhaps it was when I changed from trying to physically control him to working hands-off with his drives and needs rather than against them. Sometimes people look at this as “cross over training” in the dog training world. I developed a very hands-off approach to handling him and it’s worked out better than I could imagine. Teaching your dog to think and make decisions goes a long way in developing a trusting, confident dog. As much as I joke about managing my dogs with an “iron skillet,” with a dog as strong, powerful and intelligent as Loki, you can’t win through physical force. Getting him to use his head to make decisions and let him freely control his own body was the key to him becoming more balanced and less anxious.

Every night, before dinner, he goes out to the dog run and patrols the fence, preemptively barking at the wild life (we get lots of coyotes, bobcats, deer and mt. lions on our property 10-20 feet outside the fenced area), as if it’s his job and his payment is dinner. Then he comes in and watches me finish making their dinner, just like this in the photo above. After dinner, he goes out and does the same thing. If you don’t give a working dog work, they will always make work for themselves. And that’s OK with me. I enjoy his patrolling routines so much, and not only encourage them but thank him for his excellent service. And when his patrolling barks raise to cracker-insane cujuo, I, or Mr. Wild Dingo go out to assist him. Every single time that happens, Loki is 100% correct. It’s usually a skunk, a coyote or raccoon. That’s OK with me too. Because one day, it could be a burglar. We tell him he’s a good boy and reward him for his accurate alert.

One of the other things I’ve come to love about Loki is the trust he’s gained in me as well. When I first got him, he would flip out over anything touching him other than petting. This can be troublesome if you have to investigate a tick bite or a fox tail or anything that could cause a dog harm. But now he’s so trusting, he comes to me and asks for help. My favorite of course is when he eats too much grass and it gets stuck coming out the other end. He looks at me sheepishly and knows I will have a bag to help him out his uncomfortable situation (it pulls right out and no it’s not gross, i pick up dog poop). It took a long time to develop this “lemme see” approach whenever he had an owie or something bothering him. He’d jump around like a Mexican Jumping Bean rather than letting me see or touch the source of his concern. Now he comes to me for help and stands still to let me handle it.

One of my favorite experiences is when I come home and Mr. Wild Dingo is out in the garden with the dogs. Loki runs and greets my car at the gate and herds me 500 feet down the driveway into the garage. In the beginning I was always panicked that he’d get hurt no matter how slowly I drove, but over time we both figured it out. He’s a herding dog, and this is what he does so I let him, carefully of course, herd me and my car to the garage. As soon as I open the door, I get a big sloppy kiss and some cries. When he herds me, no matter how badly I feel, it brings a mile-wide smile to my face.

He enjoys communication and using his head to make decisions that make me happy. I never miss a chance to tell him when he makes the right decision and what a good boy he was for it. Even if that decision was for coming to me to help him with a problem, he gets a “Good Boy” and lots of pets. That is literally all it takes. How I wish I knew that early on in our journey.

I love you Loki,” I tell him. “Thanks Mom! I love me too,” he replies. Sigh. Self love: another important lesson he teaches me.

Happy Loki-versary handsome! You are the light and soul of our lives! Love, Momma, Poppy and Juicy

A Life Without Cheeses

The past two weeks, while Mr. Wild Dingo has been on travel, I, Evil Momma, have led Juno off her spiritual Path of Cheeses. This is what we call a “necessary evil” to lose a few pounds. No matter how much she prayed at the sacred altar of Mount Kitchen Island and proclaimed her faith, Cheeses has not appeared before her offering salvation and everlasting joy. Naturally, she’s begun to question her faith. Tomorrow night, Mr. Wild Dingo, the virtuous dairy minister, will be home to preach the glory of Cheeses and Juno’s faith will be restored. Hang on little girl! Your righteous cries have been heard. Cheeses is coming and you will be saved from a life without the divine! We can find other ways to balance your diet so you never have to sacrifice a life without Cheeses again. (Until the next business trip.) Hallelujah!

I am the Anti-Cheeses! Boo wa ha ha ha!

Seriously Internet, Juicy needs to lose a few pounds because of her hip problems. Her weight plus her desire to go off trail down steep slopes and climb back up impossible hillsides all contribute to pinched nerves and knotted muscles in her hips.  Because of her hip dysplasia, she doesn’t use the proper muscles to move properly, especially in challenging situations. Plus carrying extra weight contributes to that improper movement.  She gets regular physical therapy 2-3 times per month to release the knots. But I’ve also implemented a strict on-leash-walks-only policy, especially around steep areas so she won’t keep pulling muscles or pinching nerves. After two weeks of strict diet and staying leashed she’s not in much pain and limping is way down. In fact, she’s much more playful and interested in getting up to join me in the garden in the afternoons, which she stopped doing when she’s in pain.

UPDATE: We had a visit with the dogtor today for PT and found that Juno lost 2 lbs in just these past two weeks! And she’s much more playful and moves so much easily. She has at least 2 more to go for reasonable weight. She was best at 58, but I’d be fine with her at 60 lbs too.

Now I have to train Mr. Wild Dingo to restrict her snacks and use a leash on our property walks, where she tends to hurt herself the most on the steep trails. He’s not going to like it, but I can remind him how much spinal injury will cost ( Loki’s TPLO surgery cost is nothing compared to spine surgery) and that may motivate him. Internet, he’s harder to train the doggies. Maybe I can put a shock collar on him.

 

Church of Cheeses

Not many people know this, but Juno is devout spiritual being. She follows the path of Cheeses. Worshiping nightly, she prays for the coming of Cheeses, while MWD ministers an amuse-bouche in the kitchen.

“Like an angel descending from heaven, Cheeses makes its way from the great Mount Kitchen Island, and behold, lands directly on my tongue where it fills my soul with joy. What Cheeses has to offer, let no man put it anywhere but in my mouth.”

Dogs Can Express Gratitude

Have you ever noticed your dog express gratitude toward you? I’m not talking about the affection he gives you when you walk through the door after work. I mean, real thanks, for something specific. I never gave it much thought, until one day a few years ago, on a very hot walk, I stopped half way through as I usually do, to offer Loki and Juno some water. I poured it into the bowl. And instead of heading tongue first into the bowl, both gave me a kiss on the cheek, then proceeded to drink their water. In fact, they must have both kissed me before drinking hundreds of times in the 9 years we’ve been together and I never connected it as gratitude. It doesn’t matter how hot or how thirsty they are, they almost always tell me “Thanks Mom,” with a kiss, when I offer them the water. Continue reading “Dogs Can Express Gratitude”

Jenny on Heavenly Lane

Juno searches for her pal, Jenny the wee little pup, who lives on Heavenly Lane in town. At least that’s what I call this road. There’s nothing like a full fence of Wisteria fragrance to brighten your day.

Juno cries to Jenny, so she saunters over to us.  The cracker and the criminal always enjoy saying hello to their pal, whose owner granted us permission to visit when we pass.

When we first met Jenny, she’d run the fence line barking HBO words at us, all riled up. But we won her over and now when Juno cries to her, Jenny leaves her sunny porch spot for some lovin. She loves her back scratched!

 

Sometimes Crime Does Pay

“Hey Daddy-O! Mom looks like she’s packin plenty of profit in those high pockets. How about you put your paw down and demand a toll for this bridge?”

“Don’t worry Princpessa, it’s in the bag. She’s an easy mark, a real rube. We’re big rough wild dogs and crime is the price she pays. There’s plenty of profit in those pockets to greese our chops. She’ll pay up…woo else!”

Happy National Puppy Day

It’s National Puppy Day! Here’s Loki, aka: The Cracker, when he was just a wee thing in Taiwan, sometime in 2007. Even as a puppy, his penetrating eyes impart a heartbreaking story of abandonment, fear, anxiety and a desperation to find *his* person—one who spoke his language so many before misunderstood—to whom he’d gift his unending loyalty and affection. It took me a while to become fluent in the Cracker’s language, but I did. Now we’re connected forever. He grew into those magnificent ears, which now stand up proudly and not only serve as his mojo but are quite literally responsible for saving us from a house fire in the middle of the night. I trust him completely with our safety. Many undervalued dogs can be found in rescue.

This is the closest puppy photo I have of Juno, though she’s a year old here. This little criminal stole my heart the day I laid eyes on her. Never a dull moment with Juno around. She has a long rap sheet of her crimes of mastication including: countless danskos, several flip flops, purses, trash cans, magazines, books, glasses, postal mail, my passport (yes the dog ate my passport Mr. Consulate), our landscaping plans, boots, plastic bottles, dental floss, toilet paper, office files, yoga clothes, yoga blocks, yoga mats, yoga magazines (she obviously doesn’t think much of yoga), computer wires in original box, pillows, blue masking tape, and wait for it… my mini cooper seats. That last crime took her less than 5 minutes to commit. Like I could love this dog any less for her transgressions. Do you know what kind of punishment Mr. Wild Dingo dishes out when (not “if”) she commits a crime? Steak dinners. What can I say? We’re soft on criminals. Especially when they are this adorable.

Adopt! Don’t Shop!

The Last Word

Last Saturday, I walked a country road with my dogs. The traffic was a bit heavy for the area as people were driving to a winery for tasting. A car came at me at a high speed, so I motioned it to slow down as cars were coming in the other direction on a tight corner, there just wasn’t enough room for 2 cars and a dog walker. The car stopped and it turned out to be an acquaintance. This is not the first time this person stopped for me as she approached at high speed near me on a curvy single lane road. Continue reading “The Last Word”

Vet of the Year

Congratulations to our favorite vet and friend, Hilary Wheeler for winning PetPlan’s Veterinarian of the Year Award in early February. (I may, or may not have sent this photo to the judges with an “offer” to send the cracker to “speak” to them on your behalf of your outstanding qualities.) We’re so proud of you! Even Juno, who’s giving you the stink eye, actually appreciates you more than her face lets on.

 

My Girl Juicy

Now this dog. This dog doesn’t have a cruel bone in her body. During this year’s rutting season, I stopped carrying treats due to yellow jacket population. Without treats, Juno turned to her innate Siberian resolve of doing whatever she damn well pleases. Her recall slipped to the point where she would only wait for me at certain regrouping areas on our property trails. (Don’t worry. The property is fenced in two areas to keep her from bolting into the road. The other two areas lead deeper into the forest.) One day she caught a scent and didn’t even flinch at her name. Loki stayed right next to me as instructed. When we came toward the trail-head, we saw Juno next to a large gray blob. I panicked and called her. She bounced half way to me with a huge smile on her face then back to the blob. Getting closer, I saw Juno sitting next to a young doe who was laying down. The doe’s head and neck were raised but her legs folded under her as if she was just taking a break. Juno sniffed at her ear with concern as if wondering why the doe wouldn’t move. She sat decisively by her with a big smile on her face that I recognized immediately to say, “Can we take her home, Mom? PLEASE?”

The doe looked unconcerned, relaxed even. Juno refused to leave the doe’s side. To retrieve Juno, I had to get inches within the doe’s face with the cracker leashed at my side. Unusually calm, Loki didn’t make a gesture toward the doe other than to take in her scent from where he stood. I attached Juno’s leash. There was no blood, no broken bones. She was fine, in fact, quite healthy. “No Juicy, we cannot take her home, she is already home in the forest,” I told her as I led her away.

“Juicy” is Juno’s nick name. It came from calling her Juno Couture because she has designer jodhpurs like Juicy Couture. Then I shortened it to J.C. Then one day it came out half “Juno” and half “C” with “Ju-C” and eventually, just Juicy. She loves her nickname and always responds to it as well as to her original name. Even the vets call her Juicy. 

The deer was in a freeze state of the stress response. I felt remorseful about being a part of it. When we returned from our walk, the doe was gone but I could see her white tail in the woods walking about. I’m not proud of Juno not recalling in the face of wild life, but I am amazed at her compassion for an animal she knows to be fleeing rather than surrendering. She may not feel the same for moles, but overall, she’s the picture of compassion. She even cries in empathy for other dogs at the vet. Treats are back and regular recall games are played on our trail walks to remind Juno of what’s important—her Momma, the treat dispenser.

 

Brute Force Peace Keeper

This dog. This dog loves his mommy no matter what she does.

Scott pulled a prank on my Lyme brain Sunday morning while wrapping presents. Since we desperately need some humor in this house, I laughed and scolded him while girlie-slapping his arm and nudging his wine-belly. Loki, being the police dog that he is, broke up the action. You would think the high prey-drive dog would go after the one dishing out the violence. Instead, he clamored up onto Scott’s arm and hollered in his face. “Stop your teasin’ Pop!”  He doesn’t like anyone provoking his Momma. That’s my boy. Everyone knows you should respect the cookie jar guardian! We all had a good laugh at the cracker’s expense. Santa Paws is going to be extra generous with my loyal guardian this year.

Paws crossed for Santa Paws!

My Two Essential Ingredients in Lyme Disease Treatment

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Thank dog and praise cheeses for these two. They’ve literally held me together the last few weeks as my health plummeted into Lyme disease hell. Surviving on 2-3 hours of sleep per night and all the other little goodies that come along with Neurological Lyme plus a brand-new infection has been peachy. This election season was extra difficult. Chronic pain makes me more sensitive than I was as a healthier version of myself. My heart shatters into a million pieces with each story indicating the country entering an era of fewer freedoms, more fear and more hatred. But these two? They keep it real. They help me pick up the pieces of my heart and glue it back together again. Because they only know their love for the outdoors, good cuisine and snuggles. And they will fight to the end to protect those things. (Well at least the cracker will. Juno will only bounce around egging him on.) This new administration does not define me and never will.

Anyone want to start a petition to make dogs a healthcare tax deduction for every household? ‘Cuz I’m thinkin’ there’s a win-win here.